Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan reminisced his life as a cricketer and politician in a speech he delivered at a lunch hosted by Speaker of the Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Namal Rajapaksa in Colombo. The lunch was attended by several former Sri Lanka cricketers including World Cup winning [...]


‘Never stop dreaming’ Imran Khan tells young people


World Cup winning captains Arjuna Ranatunga and Imran Khan exchange greetings as Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa looks on

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan reminisced his life as a cricketer and politician in a speech he delivered at a lunch hosted by Speaker of the Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Namal Rajapaksa in Colombo. The lunch was attended by several former Sri Lanka cricketers including World Cup winning skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and his team, Olympic medallist Susanthika Jayasingha and many other sports personalities.

Here is the full speech:

Sport teaches you something which you do not learn in university or in school because the idea of competing in sports is to prepare you for life, for struggle in life. The problem is that some sportsmen when they finish their sporting career, they live in the comfort zone. They don’t want to take any challenges and the entire experience of struggle on the sporting field which is taught to you is lost because the moment you do not take on any of the challenges means that experience which you learn to struggle is gone.

What did sports teach me? Sports taught me that it was not the most talented player that became a champion, it was the player who had that ability to take the marks, who knew how to take defeat, who is not demoralised by defeat but who learned from the bad times. Because in life whatever we do life is never in a straight line, it’s in cycles. You will have your ups and downs whether it is in education, business and in politics. It’s a cycle, you have your good and your bad times.

Success depends on not how you deal with the good times but how you deal with the bad times. In sports no one has ever become a champion who has not learned how to cope with failure. If you don’t know how to cope with that you can never become a champion. There are two ways that people react to a defeat. One is they get demoralised and when they get demoralised, they lose their dream, they give up all the dreams. Second is those people who become champions are those who actually learn from defeat. You do not give up but every time there is a setback in life there are lessons to be learnt.

The ability to analyse where you went wrong and then pick yourself up and start struggling again, that is the only way you become a champion. And that’s the only way anyone achieves anything big in life. What I feel is that sport prepares you; it gives you that ability to excel in anything whatever you do. If you have learnt those lessons from sport you can excel.

In my case I was not the most talented cricketer when I started; my two first cousins (Javed Burki and Majid Khan) both of them captained Pakistan and all my other cousins had more talent than me so when I was growing up, I was always told that I was not going to be as good as them. And then when I played my first Test match I was dropped and everyone thought that was the last they would see of me. For three years I was out of the cricket team. Many of the cricketers who were dropped after their first match the majority never came back again. There were two ways – you could either give up and, chase another career or you can actually learn from your first Test appearance or your first Test tour.

The reason why I succeeded more than a lot more talented cricketers than me was that I had the ability to analyse my mistakes better than others and the second ability is I would work harder than most others and that’s why if you have that ability you will keep on improving. The improvement process never stops. So, when I came into politics it was just like my first Test match; my party never got one seat, we were wiped out and everyone wrote my obituary in politics saying this is the last you’ll ever see of him and I became the butt of all jokes in the political circles.

I must say I was very naive politically. I became the butt of all the jokes not for one year, two years, five years but for almost 14 years people laughed at me. They never thought that this guy will ever make it because I took the untrodden path. I didn’t join an established political party. I didn’t join a group of old politicians and then form a party. I started alone with no political background but more established politicians they wouldn’t join me anyway because I had no chance of winning. I started with very few people and for 14 years, I was alone with very few people and butt of all the jokes and no one thought that I could win.

So, it was the lessons I learnt in cricket that helped me in politics. The key lesson is you only lose when you give up. As long as you don’t give up, defeat cannot make you lose. It’s just a way of strengthening you. There is a verse which I’ve always followed since I was a boy. One of our greatest poets wrote this little verse which said, it refers to the eagle or to the hawk who is flying way above everyone else and it tells ‘oh hawk, don’t be scared of the force of wind that hits you, it’s only meant to make you fly higher because when you have resistance the Almighty has made us human beings such that the moment we face resistance, if we stand up to resistance we can get stronger’.

We in Islam believe the human being was made by the Almighty God, even above angels and we in Islam believe that when Satan was banished by God from heaven it was the reason why Satan refused to bow in front of man. While all angels bowed in front of man Satan refused because he said ‘I am made of fire, I am superior to him’ and God told Satan ‘Look even you don’t know the power I’ve given to man’. So, we have immense power, all of us incredible power inside us but that power will only come out when you face resistance. When we put ourselves against challenges only then that power comes out, that human potential only comes out then.

Problem is that somewhere down the line we give up; that’s where you lose, the more you face resistance the stronger you get. Physically if you put your arm against a higher weight your arm will get stronger but the mind is the powerhouse and the moment you put your mind into resistance it just gets stronger and stronger.

If anyone understands politics in a two-party system, it hardly ever happens that a third party breaks through. My party we broke through a two-party system, two established parties and we got more seats in the Parliament than all of them, but it took a long time, 22 years. So, the lesson for young people is simple. All of us can become whatever we dream of; we should never stop dreaming; anything that you can dream you can achieve provided you are prepared to struggle for it and provided that you do not get demoralised from the bad times because every bad time is a time of reflection and self-analysis so that you even come back much stronger.

I must say that it is a pleasure for me to see my old colleagues here. I have watched Sri Lanka; I first came here straight out of university in 1975 and I remember playing against the Sri Lankan team. I’ve always thought they had talent, I always thought Sri Lankan teams had especially batting talent but then they did not have the self-belief, they could not believe that they could win. It was exactly the same with us when as an 18-year-old I first played for my country I remember we toured England and I remember my senior players telling me do not think that we can beat the English. You know colonialism was much fresher in 1971 when I first played.

They said we have just come here to learn. My own senior players were saying do not think we can beat the English and as it happened, a series which we should have won we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory because we didn’t have self-belief. So I remember in 1975 Sri Lanka faced that same problem and gradually I saw the team evolve, develop self-belief and I must say I commend you Arjuna because you were the one who actually instilled in them that great determination and self-belief and we were all very pleased to watch you win the World Cup in Lahore. Thank you for honouring me today.

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